Your mother always told you breakfast was the most important meal of the day! Well, my version of this has become: “Win the morning and your back will feel better all day.” My sister taught yoga for several years, which worked out for me well. I got to tag along and take her classes for free! When she taught in the mornings, she would often say, “your spine is most honest with you in the morning.” I would wholeheartedly agree.
When you sleep at night, your spine has less pressure on it than during the day. Check out the chart below from a study from Dr. Nachemson from way back in 1981. This measures pressures within the intervertebral disc (L3 to be exact) during various positions. As you can see, when you’re not upright, there’s less pressure in your discs! Your discs rehydrate and grow! You can be up to half an inch taller in the morning vs. evening! On the same note, astronauts can be up to 2 inches taller after returning from a zero gravity environment for the same reason, but I digress…….
While you may want to be taller, you may also notice this is a troublesome time of day if you have low back issues. With increased hydration in your discs also comes increased pressure on disc walls and other structures in the vicinity. Most people want to stretch first thing in the morning, but leaning forward and touching toes, doing the plow stretch or other hamstring stretches can put even more strain on those structures. Most people also have some routine that involves sitting: having coffee, reading the paper, etc. Reconsider and do those later in the day if your back hurts in the morning.
When I was dealt with my low back issue years ago, I routinely stretched each morning. I also sat in the lotus position to meditate for about 20 minutes. My back got worse. This was an exceptional learning experience, and after reading this study and some self-reflection, I changed things up. Right after waking up, I skipped the stretches and headed out the door to do a walk while I meditated for 20 minutes. What a difference this one minor change made. Instead of dealing with pain from the first thing in the morning, I “won the morning!” You can do it too. Stop your morning forward bending stretches and your morning habits that involve sitting! Try doing them in the afternoon or evening and see what happens. It may surprise you.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.